An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009

  • Self-reported data from the 2009 General Social Survey (GSS) show that 335,697 Canadians sustained 942,000 incidents of spousal violence in 2009;
    • 54% of the victims were female and 46% of the victims were male.
  • The GSS finds that more victims were victimized by current spouses (69%) than by former spouses (31%).
  • The police-reported Uniform Crime Reporting Survey 2 (UCR2) shows that 46,918 spousal violence incidents were brought to the attention of police in 2009;
    • 81% involved female victims and 19% involved male victims.

Overall costs

  • Including the impact borne by the justice system, the impact borne by primary victims, and the impact borne by third parties and others, the total economic impact of spousal violence in Canada in 2009 is estimated at $7.4 billion.
  • This amounts to $220 per Canadian.
  • The majority of the impact is attributed to spousal violence incidents against females ($4.8 billion), while $2.6 billion is attributed to incidents against males.

Justice System Costs

  • The justice system bore 7.3% ($545.2 million) of the total economic impact:
    • $320.1 million borne by the criminal justice system (which includes police, court, prosecution, legal aid, and correctional service costs);
    • $225.1 million borne by the civil justice system (which includes costs for civil protection orders, divorces and separations, and child protection systems).

Victim Costs

  • Victim costs ($6.0 billion) accounted for the largest proportion (80.7%) of the total economic impact.
  • Victim costs include:
    • Health care and mental health issues ($200.4 million);
    • Productivity losses ($53.4 million);
    • Damaged or destroyed property costs ($89.2 million);
    • Legal costs for matters of divorce and separation ($166.6 million);
    • Other personal costs (special phone features, moving expenses) ($15.5 million);
    • Pain and suffering ($4 billion);
    • Loss of life ($1.5 million).

Third-Party Costs

  • Third-party costs ($889.9 million) represented 12.0% of the total economic impact.
  • Substantial costs included:
    • Social service operating costs ($410.6 million);
    • Losses to employers ($77.9 million);
    • Negative impact on the expected future earnings of children exposed to spousal violence ($235.2 million);
    • Other government expenditures ($116.3 million). Other government expenditures includes costs for programs and initiatives by federal, provincial, and territorial agencies, such as the federal government’s Family Violence Initiative (FVI), not otherwise covered in the in other cost items;
    • Family members of spousal violence victims whose lives were lost also experience a loss of affection and enjoyment ($37.1 million).

Tangible costs by who pays

  • Intangible costs accounted for most of the economic impact of spousal violence (74.1%), followed by tangible costs (22.8%) and the lost future income of children who witnessed violence (3.1%).
  • Tangible costs can be further broken down by who actually paid: the state (64%), individuals (including victims) (29%), or the private sector (7%).


Zhang, Ting, Josh Hoddenbagh, Susan McDonald, and Katie Scrim. 2012. An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009. Department of Justice Canada, Research and Statistics Division: Ottawa.

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